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Germany

Open Government Portal in Saxony (DE0028)

Overview

At-a-Glance

Action Plan: Germany Action Plan 2019-2021

Action Plan Cycle: 2019

Status:

Institutions

Lead Institution: Chancellery of the Free State of Saxony

Support Institution(s): NA

Policy Areas

E-Government, Local Commitments, Public Participation

IRM Review

IRM Report: Germany Transitional Results Report 2019-2021, Germany Design Report 2019-2021

Starred: Pending IRM Review

Early Results: Marginal

Design i

Verifiable: Yes

Relevant to OGP Values: Access to Information , Civic Participation

Potential Impact:

Implementation i

Completion:

Description

What is the public problem that the commitment will address?
The people of the Free State of Saxony
have a growing need for a sense of
ownership and a voice within a modern,
vibrant democracy. They expect their
parliamentary representatives and their
administrative institutions to come up
with innovative and effective solutions to
the ever-more complex issues affecting
many areas of our lives. Correspondingly,
people’s desire for transparency and
involvement in decision-making processes
is continuously increasing. It is the administrative authorities’ job to find new forms of
cooperation among the general public, the
political sphere and administrators and
to develop instruments that will support
such cooperation. The opportunities are
clear. This will considerably raise the value
ascribed to civic engagement, and the
political and administrative spheres will be
able to put the population’s huge wealth of
knowledge and experience to good use in
the running of our Land.

What is the commitment?
The Free State of Saxony’s Beteiligungsportal, or participation portal, is just the
kind of instrument required. This application will facilitate various forms of civic
involvement to be undertaken online.
People can engage in discussion on
free-ranging subjects, in formal types of
participation like planning procedures,
and in online surveys. The Free State of Saxony pledges to
continue developing the portal in terms of
both content and technology, and it would
be gratified to see it re-used by other
Länder.

How will the commitment contribute to
solving the public problem?
It is important to the Government of
Saxony to boost public involvement.
The Representation of the Free State of
Saxony to the Federation has developed
the online participation portal to that end.
The focus has been on user friendliness,
including compatibility with smartphone
use and accessibility to people with disabilities. The portal supports not only one
possible form of civic engagement but
a broad spectrum of participatory procedures. This enables agencies of the Free
State of Saxony, as well as districts and
municipalities, to involve large numbers of
the public in decision-making processes on an individual, goal-oriented level.
The concept of this online participation
portal was developed in close cooperation
with pilot agencies and municipalities. This
direct link to real-life applications will be
strictly upheld in its ongoing evolution.

Why is this commitment relevant to OGP values?
Key issues:
• Transparency: Wide-ranging and early
public involvement in political decisionmaking processes has the potential to
raise the transparency of policy decisions
and of administrative actions.
• Participation: This tool makes it possible
for individuals and the administrators
of public policy to be directly involved in
the formulation of objectives and decisions. It helps create an environment that
fosters a sense of ownership.

IRM Midterm Status Summary

13. Further developing and establishing the participation portal of the Free State of Saxony

Main Objective

“The Free State of Saxony’s Beteiligungsportal, or participation portal, is just the kind of instrument required [for involving citizens in decision-making processes]. This application will facilitate various forms of civic involvement to be undertaken online. People can engage in discussion on free-ranging subjects, in formal types of participation like planning procedures, and in online surveys.”

Milestones

13.1. General ongoing evolution

13.2. Urban land-use planning 2.0

13.3. App for specialized reporting procedures

13.4. Assuring interoperability in planning procedures by means of XPlanung standard

13.5. Repeating BITV test to check accessibility

Editorial Note: For the complete text of this commitment, please see Germany’s action plan at: https://www.opengovpartnership.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/09/Germany_Action-Plan_2019-2021_EN.pdf.

Commitment Analysis

This commitment will expand opportunities for civic engagement in the Free State of Saxony by further developing the state’s citizen participation portal (Buergerbeteiligungsportal). [119] Among the planned improvements are applications for formal participation (including in urban planning), collective reporting channels (e.g. for reporting problems with hiking trails), information interoperability, accessibility standards. The commitment is directly relevant to the OGP value of civic participation. The portal also enhances access to information by making district development plans available and searchable online, and hosting crowd-reporting mechanisms that transparently disclose feedback and follow-up measures.

Initiated in 2014, Saxony’s participation portal hosts 150 regional or thematic sub-portals [120] and has supported over 5,400 participation processes as of early 2020. [121] At the start of this commitment in September 2019, 346 administrative entities at state and local levels actively used the portal and conducted an average 400 participation and information events per month. [122]

As the commitment plans to continuously develop the platform without specifying the intended improvements in the action plan, it is difficult to accurately assess its level of ambition. However, several considerations suggest that tangible improvements can be expected. The portal already has a large user base of local government units, so even incremental improvements in user engagement interfaces would be immediately available across all participating municipalities and provide cumulative benefits at scale. This amplification is likely to grow, as other German states have entered into discussion with Saxony on how they can join or license the platform. [123]

Expanding participation around urban planning (Milestone 13.2, Bauleitplanung 2.0) [124] is highly relevant to the challenge of climate change mitigation and adaptation. [125]

Urban planning already has a rich history of civic engagement. [126] Efforts in this area are most likely related to enhancing current participation through digital tools and online channels. [127] These efforts can also build on an existing sub-portal that provides access to district-level land development masterplans. Achieving full interoperability across different planning procedures (Milestone 13.4) is quite ambitious, as this can involve different information systems and actors, and accessibility must be protected to ensure inclusive participation (Milestone 13.5).

Finally, the broader political environment appears to be conducive for the successful implementation of this commitment. Active development of the portal in combination with the development of a transparency law for the state is included in the 2019−2024 coalition agreement by the state’s three ruling parties. [128] The overall potential to expand civic engagement in Saxony is therefore assessed as moderate, despite the lack of specific targets in the milestones.

[119] Saxon State Chancellory, "Bürgerbeteiligung in Sachsen - Gestalten Sie mit!" [Citizen participation in Saxony - help shape it!] (accessed Aug. 2020),https://buergerbeteiligung.sachsen.de/.
[120] Information by the developer; Xima, "Projekte: Beteiligungsportal Sachsen Digitaler Bürgerdialog" [Projects: Participation portal Saxony Digital citizen dialogue] (accessed Aug. 2020), https://www.xima.de/projekte/beteiligungsportal-sachsen.
[121] Thomas Popp and Manfred Klein, “Mitmachen, ‘Mitreden ausdrücklich erwünscht’" [Get involved, expressly encouraged to have a say] (eGovernment Computing, 2 Mar. 2020), https://www.egovernment-computing.de/mitmachen-mitreden-ausdruecklich-erwuenscht-a-909975/ (Op-ed by the state government’s CIO).
[122] Ralph Schreiber, “Medieninformation Sächsische Staatskanzlei: Regierungs- und Verwaltungshandeln offener gestalten – Sachsen ist dabei” [Media information Saxon State Chancellery Make government and administrative action more open - Saxony is there] (4 Sept. 2019), https://opera.foev-speyer.de/opus4/frontdoor/deliver/index/docId/97/file/Beteiligungsportal+Sachsen.pdf.
[123] Popp and Klein, “Mitmachen, ‘Mitreden ausdrücklich erwünscht.’"
[124] Saxon State Chancellory, "Bauleitplanung in Sachsen - Gestalten Sie mit!" [Site planning in Saxony - help shape it!] (accessed Aug. 2020), https://buergerbeteiligung.sachsen.de/portal/bplan/startseite.
[125] This link is exemplified by an explicit reference in the current coalition agreement, Koalitionsvertrag Sachsen für die Jahre 2019 bis 2024, https://www.mdr.de/sachsen/politik/koalitionsvertrag-sachsen-104.html.
[126] Urban planning has included large-scale, innovative civic engagement since the 1960s and is thus a leading example for civic engagement more broadly. See L. Winter, Bauleitplanung und Internet: Beteiligungsverfahren des Baugesetzbuches” im Wandel vol.16 [Urban land use planning and the internet: participation procedures in the building code are changing] (Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2013); S. R. Arnstein, “A Ladder Of Citizen Participation” in Journal of the American Institute of Planners, 35 no.4 (1969): 216.
[127] This is speculation by the IRM researcher, as more detailed background information could not be procured.
[128] CDU, Bündnis 90/Die Grünen, und SPD, Koalitionsvertrag Sachsen für die Jahre 2019 bis 2024 [Background coalition agreement Saxony for the years 2019 to 2024] (Mitteldeutsche Rundfunk, accessed Aug. 2020), https://www.mdr.de/sachsen/politik/koalitionsvertrag-sachsen-104.html.

IRM End of Term Status Summary

Commitment 13. Free State of Saxony: Further develop and establish the participation portal of the Free State of Saxony

Substantial:

Aim of the commitment

This commitment aimed to further develop the Free State of Saxony’s citizen participation portal “Bürgerbeteiligungsportal”. [39] Among the planned improvements were applications for formal participation (including in urban planning), collective reporting channels (e.g., for reporting problems with hiking trails), information interoperability, and accessibility standards.

Did it open government?

Marginal

According to internal statistics, the usage of the portal rose significantly between 2019 and 2021. [40] The number of authorities using the portal rose from 316 in 2018 to 437 in 2021. Likewise, the amount of participation opportunities rose from 1,397 in 2019 to 3,344 in 2021. The number of people participating in these opportunities is not directly comparable due to differences across the specific participation formats. [41] Available metrics for each participation opportunity suggest mixed interest by the public. For instance, some surveys or planning projects attracted several thousand responses, while others attracted significantly less. Nonetheless, the metrics indicate sustained use of the portal. These opportunities included dialogues, procedures, surveys, topical issue reporting procedures, land-use plans, events, and appointments. Surveys saw the most significant growth in numbers (from 210 surveys in 2019 to 1,451 surveys in 2021) suggesting an increased interest among authorities for consultative formats. [42] Other opportunities that grew significantly in number were appointments (from 0 in 2019 to 118 in 2021) and land-use planning procedures (from 861 in 2019 to 1,049 in 2021). The portal can now display “announcement”, “decision” and “active” planning stages of land-use planning procedures as an outcome of Milestone 2. All planning pages include forms to contact the municipal building authority which visitors may use when they are affected by a planning decision. Visitors may also leave remarks for plans in the “active” phase which are displayed on the portal.

On request by authorities, the development team added new features to the portal. These included expanding the reporting system to cover new municipal issues, implementing the Open311 standard to facilitate connections with third parties, and integrating geoservices into the map. Other additions included event management functions for town meetings, functions to manage content, improvements to make the platform more user-friendly and inclusive, and the replacement of Google Maps with the standard “openlayers”. In response to COVID-19, the portal developed a feature for scheduling vaccination and testing appointments.

The envisioned app for specialized reporting procedures (Milestone 3) is currently being piloted. To fulfill Milestone 5, several improvements to the portal’s accessibility were made, including checking the understandability and navigability of the website and adopting naming conventions for documents. Milestone 4 initially sought to create a stand-alone app that is interoperable with the XPlanung standard. However, the development of this app was postponed to align the development with the roll-out of the Online Access Act.

Overall, this commitment saw a rise in the number of participation opportunities on the portal as well as several new features and functions. According to the platform’s own usage metrics, interest from the public for these participation opportunities was mixed. In addition, while the new features may be beneficial to citizens, it is difficult for the IRM to determine the extent to which they have supported greater participation. Therefore, the overall changes to open government practices in Saxony are considered marginal. Nonetheless, North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany’s largest state, has launched a state-wide participation portal in the next action plan, using Saxony’s portal as a model. This could indicate a greater long-term impact of this commitment on civic participation in Germany more broadly.

[39] Participation portal, Citizen participation in Saxony, https://buergerbeteiligung.sachsen.de/portal/sachsen/startseite
[40] The statistics were made available to the IRM researcher by the point of contact.
[41] For instance, the number of survey participants may differ significantly based on the breadth of the topic. Likewise, metrics of participation are difficult to compare across each participation format, due to the methodological differences and the different topical focus points they have.
[42] Several of the currently ongoing surveys (February 2022) count more than 100 participants. A scan of the available surveys suggests that people have an interest in these surveys.

Commitments

Open Government Partnership